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Posted on Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Ypsilanti to consider demolishing 3 houses, requiring ex-Smith Furniture Company building owner to do renovations

By Katrease Stafford


City officials are asking the owner of the former Smith Furniture Company to make appropriate renovations to the building.

Tom Perkins | For

Editor's note: City officials said the City Council agenda incorrectly stated the former Smith Furniture Building was being considered for demolition. The story has been updated to reflect those changes.

The Ypsilanti City Council will consider demolishing three homes and ordering the owner of the former Smith Furniture Company building located downtown to do necessary renovations.

Four show-cause hearings are scheduled for the properties Tuesday at 7 p.m. and council then will decide whether the houses should be torn down and the Smith Furniture Company building repaired.

Smith Furniture Company building

The 15,000-square-foot building at 15 S. Washington is in danger of collapse, due to leaks that have caused significant structural damage and a severe mold infestation.

Thick mold has blanketed one of the front rooms around two years ago, and green and black mold began growing throughout the building.

The building housed the Smith Furniture Company when it opened in 1965 but has been vacant since around 1995, Ypsilanti Fire Chief Jon Ichesco said.

City Planner Teresa Gillotti said the building is up for abatement, meaning the city will consider requiring the owner to fix the roof to prevent further leaks and clean up the mold in the building.

Gillotti said the city would like the building to be preserved for any potential future uses.

Owner James Pate has not responded to city notices or citations. In 2008, Ann Arbor Spark considered using the building for a high-tech business incubator, but those plans fell through.

Pate purchased the building in 1992 for $300,000 from Sharlene Corp. The building currently is assessed at $355,800, according to city records.

818 Monroe St.

The home has been abandoned since the mid-1990’s. Building inspectors discovered the home has a leaking and deteriorating roof which has let moisture inside. The leaking has led to significant mold growth, causing drywall deterioration and a compromised structure interior.

The chimney also is detaching from the home and collapsing, and the exterior is in a severe state of disrepair.


818 Monroe St.

Tom Perkins | For

The home is owned by brothers David and James Ragg who let the home fall to disrepair in the mid-1990’s before abandoning it altogether. The 2012 assessed value of the home is $27,500.

Ichesco said the Ragg family once left messages spray painted on plywood or posted on paper in the home, warning officials to stay off the premises.

When a home is identified as dangerous, Ichesco sets a hearing with a city-appointed dangerous building officer. The officer then tries to address the situation either by working with the owner or through demolition.

If the building’s owner fails to appear at the hearing or no consent agreement is reached, the issue goes to City Council, which can approve a building's demolition through a resolution. If there is resistance to that order from the property owner, the city can bring the issue before a Washtenaw County Circuit Court judge.

910 Monroe St.

The home has been abandoned since 2001, when it was purchased by Saint James Church of God-Christ, which occupies the lot to the west. The church previously expressed to Icheso they wanted the home demolished to make way for a parking lot.


910 Monroe St.

Courtesy Ypsilanti

Those plans never happened and the church has not responded to the city's notices to appear at a hearing.

The home is on the city’s dangerous building list because of a mold infestation, missing windows and several other concerns.

Ichesco said he doesn't believe church leaders will resist the demolition, but there has been no discussion about who will pay for the project.

City records show the church purchased the home in 2003 for $51,000 from the Mayfield Henry Estate. The house is now valued at $27,900.

If the church fails to pay for the demolition, the city could put a lien on the property. Demolishing homes in the city usually costs about $10,000.

875 Jefferson St.


875 Jefferson St.

Tom Perkins | For

Officials are seeking the approval of demolition for an abandoned south side "hoarder house." The house has been set on fire twice in the past four years.

The home was abandoned by the homeowner, a woman who moved in with her daughter due to health problems in 2005. The house is owned by Patricia Ware and was assessed at $20,200 in 2012.

The police notified Ichesco in 2005 that there were hoarder-like conditions inside. Ichesco said inspectors had to crawl across piles of junk to move around in the house and it was immediately condemned.

The house caught on fire when a car parked next to the house was set on fire in 2008 and in July 2012, someone set fire to the house’s backside which partially burned it down. The house is now full of charred materials and belongings.

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.



Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

Unless it's perched atop a concealed gold mine or something the Monroe Street property could not possibly be worth that much.

Soft Paw

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

I personally know people who made several offers to buy or rent the Smith building, and were refused. The owner has completely unrealistic notions of its value, which is why its been empty for over 15 years.

Dog Guy

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

Thirty miles east, such buildings are called "detroitus". Ypsilanti has taken action appropriate to detroitus.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

So has James Pate simply disappeared? Is it not possible to find him, arrest him, and make him pay for the demolition of the abandoned building himself, rather than have the city pick up the tab?

Elaine F. Owsley

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

Perhaps a time limit of some kind - 3 years - should be established for blighted, abandoned homes. At the end of the period, with no action from the property owner, demolition is automatic.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 11:57 a.m.

The discussion about these properties has been going on for way too long. Please report when some action has been taken.